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Yankees surprise FDNY veteran in Queens decades after his retirement

A former firefighter spent 20 years, a month and a day working to protect the city. It's been a long time since he retired in 1977 and moved with wife down to Florida, but he knows that once you're a member of New York's Bravest, you always will be.

Sal Reale was able to go back to Engine 287, Ladder 136 in Queens. He was greeted warmly by current firefighters.

"That's what this is: it's a firehouse, it's a home," firefighter Nicholas Boncimino said. "Guys come here, it's like a second family and he's always and will always be welcome back here because he's part of this family.  This is his house."

Reale started working for the FDNY in the 1950s.

"You know what this meant to me in 1957 to have a job that paid $3,600 a year?," Reale joked.

Though he worked in Queens, he'd grown up in the Bronx. So, naturally, he was a Yankees fan. And like all fans he had his favorites.

"Well there's a short list, Bill Dickey and of course Joe DiMaggio," he listed. " Yogi Berra, Joe Torre, I don't know you just get involved with some of them and they become a part of your life."

Now that he lives in Florida, he doesn't always get to see his team play on TV. But Wednesday at his old firehouse, he got something way better. A half dozen Yankees stopped by to say hello to the FDNY veteran.

"They truly are heroes here, so this is amazing for me to be here," Yankees First Baseman Tyler Austin said.

And Reale got to give them his two-cents on the team.

"He thinks the starters don't throw enough so he says he doesn't want to see us pitch," Relief Pitcher Chad Green said.  "I guess I don't blame him, but I guess the game has changed a little bit."

The entire event was made possible thanks to the Yankees and Wish of a Lifetime, an organization which helps seniors cross items off their bucket lists. For Reale, that was coming back to the home where he grew up and meeting some of the players from the team he loves.

In true New York fashion, right in the middle of the presentation of a $10,000 check for the charity, the firefighters got a call.

"It seemed like they got to be on their toes all the time," Green said.

The players had their share of fun too, getting to hold the jaws of life, and listening to some old stories from Reale on the rig.

But First baseman Tyler Austin says he doesn't think he'll be following in Reale's footsteps after baseball.

"I don't know if I'm cut out for it," he said. "The pole itself scared me enough."

Reale said he might not be cutout for the job any more either.

"Maybe until yesterday, in that traffic," he said. " It's amazing.  I even said I don't know if I could get the fire engine through here."